How to Build an Herb Spiral
Turn a long row into a productive, coiled garden
When visitors come up our driveway, one of the first things they see is our herb spiral, which is prominently situated. They always ask us for details: What is this? and, Why is this bed in the shape of a spiral? It's always fun for me to explain the thinking behind this innovative garden design.
Imagine a long garden row, about 25 feet long. Then, take that row and coil it around and upward into a spiral. This spiral now has the length of a row, but only occupies a circular space about 6 feet wide.
Unlike a flat garden, an herb spiral is in three dimensions. The high spots get the most sun and have the best drainage, making it ideal for plants — such as oregano or rosemary — that thrive in sunny, well-drained sites. The bottom of the spiral, of course, is the right place for plants that like more moisture and some shade, such as comfrey. Plants planted along the eastern side of the spiral will get shade after noon, while the plants on the west side will take the brunt of the afternoon sun.
Tender perennials can be planted along the south side, where — throughout the winter — the sun will shine all day.
To make our herb spiral, we prepared the area by first completely leveling the site. Then, we dug a 6" trench in the shape of the spiral. Into this trench we ran rebar (reinforcing steel), placed on old bricks. Then, we mixed and poured bagged concrete to create the foundation. With the foundation in place, we mixed mortar and laid the bricks, row by row, until we had the shape we wanted. Working a couple hours a day, it took two weeks to make our herb spiral.
Having completed the bricklaying, it's time for the fun part: filling it with a growing medium.
The rest of the bed is filled with any other organic matter: leaves, grass clippings, shredded wood chips, compost, old manure, good topsoil, etc.
And here is the finished herb spiral, ready for planting.
We love our herb spiral. In addition to herbs, we use it to grow vegetables: spinach, lettuce, brassicas, carrots, peppers, eggplants and so on. Because it's such a beautiful garden, we are happy to have it right next to the house, where it is close to the kitchen, whenever we need fresh herbs.
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